In the middle of the second full week of July every year, Centre County becomes a host to artistic festivities. The Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts (CPFA), which I review the in Part 1, and for the past 19 years The People’s Choice Festival at the Pennsylvania Military Museum. The People’s Choice was a festival born out of local artisans frustration of not being accepted into CPFA have have remained dedicated to having all of the venders being Pennsylvania residents and a nice percentage of them from the center region.
My mother, Rita Gay Lukens, is an artist that showed he faith in the creation of the first People’s Choice festival and for over a decade would set up with her pen and ink drawing of Scenes of Central PA. Now retired from the show circuit, her art can still be purchased at West Side Gallery in Lewistown.
All of this has little to do with the vegetarian food at the People’s Choice other than I have closely seen the growth and change in the festival vendors over the years. They have always had a nice diversity in food choices (I remember one year had Soul Food) but the percentage of vegetarian options has stayed about the same.
The People’s Choice
This year was almost identical to what I remember for the past 2 years and it continues to outshine the downtown CPFA. Rick Snyder is again the coordinator of what they refer to as the Food Court. Most of the food choices are arranged together in an arc near the southern curve of the festival. Only a few booths, Packer’s Lemonade, Shaved Ice and Cowboy Kettle Korn, are in more remote locations.
I will start with the obvious red and white Synder’s stands in the Food Court. They do have a Pizza only stand which almost always has plain cheese and the French Fries only stand used a soy oil. They also offer a cheese sauce on their fries.
The Polish Platter and fried vegetable booth, although it was safe as of noon on Thursday, could not guarantee that any of their fried vegetables might not share oil with the chicken fingers. They do try to keep them all separate but were honest to admit if one of their fryers broke they would have to share the cooking duties to all of the vats. Their Polish Platter sounds like a safe bet but the “Stuffed Cabbage” aka “Cabbage Roll” has ground beef in it. It is safe to get what they call The Sampler which is a bowl of Haluski with single a Pierogi on top.
I had The Sampler and it is what you would expect, a big dish of starchy comfort. I opted to have mine with some sautéed onions on top. The pierogi stuffing was tasty and cheesy but the whole dish was too greasy and bland. Barbarian that I am, I added pepper and ketchup but still only I ate about 2/3.
The safest booth for anything other than a dessert was the Roasted Corn on the Cob and Loaded Potatoes. Don’t be put off by the “bacon bits” which are soy based, the loaded potatoes also have the toppings of sour cream, cheese, chives and jalepeños. The roasted corn is served with its husk on as a handle and can be dripping with butter if you choose.
The most unique yet biggest disappointment was the Sweet & Savory Crêpes stand. I am sure the Nutella and Fruit options are great but they totally spoiled the Vegetable Cheese Crêpe by cooking the veggies right on the grill with the meats. So much fun to watch and it sounded delicious. What a bummer!
To conclude, I can’t say any of the food at either festival is particularly good nor good for your health. My goal has been to share what research I did to help vegetarians make more informed choices. As always, things may change and I am human and make errors. Please let me know if you find any different information.